How Super Mario Brothers Changed Pop Culture

Yes, that's the prime minister of Japan dressed up as Mario.

Need to Know

There were a couple surprises at last night’s closing ceremonies for the Rio Olympics – torrential rain, the absence of Pele (as well as much of an audience), and Simone Biles remarkable flag bearing abilities among them.

But the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the moment Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, dressed as Super Mario, popped up from a warp pipe to promote 2020’s Tokyo games.

While the spectacle speaks to Abe’s previously undetected sense of humor, Abe’s appearance also points to the cultural impact of Nintendo’s unlikely mascot (he is a short, plump, mustachioed plumber, after all).

After making his debut in 1981’s Donkey Kong, Mario teamed up with his brother Luigi for his own star turn in 1983 arcade game Mario Bros.. But it wasn’t until 1985’s release of Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System that the character became a superstar of sorts. That game sold 40.24 million copies, and the Mario platformers are now considered the most successful video game franchise in history.

The character quickly jumped into new mediums, including a Saturday-morning cartoon and a truly dreadful 1993 cash-in movie starring the otherwise esteemed Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as the eponymous characters (as well as Dennis Hopper).

There were Super Mario cereals, Super Mario ice cream bars, and pretty much any other promotional tie-in you can imagine.

It’s not all commerce. In celebration of SMB’s 25th anniversary in 2010, Spain’s Matadero Madrid held an exhibition of art inspired by the game, Once Upon a Time Super Mario.

And if you’d like to get a better grasp on the politics of the Mario Universe, Quora has you covered.